Wikinews interviews academic Steve Redhead about Australian women's soccer

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Saturday, December 7, 2013

Yesterday, Wikinews interviewed Steve Redhead, a Professor of Sports Media and Acting Head of School of Human Movement Studies at Charles Sturt University in New South Wales, Australia, about the Australian women's national soccer team (Matildas), the Australian men's national soccer team (Socceroos) and the current differences between the state of women and men's soccer in Australia. The Socceroos are currently getting international attention following yesterday's 2014 FIFA World Cup draw which placed the 59th FIFA ranked team in the same group as top FIFA ranked Spain, fifteenth ranked Chile and the ninth ranked Netherlands.

The Matildas were in the news late last month, following their AFC Women’s Asian Cup 2014 draw which saw them placed in the group with Japan, Vietnam and Jordan. With the competition scheduled to take place in May, the Matildas are looking to repeat their performance as AFC champions. Domestically, Australia's top women's club team Sydney FC finish third in the International Women’s Club Championship held in Japan this past week after defeating South American club champions Colo-Colo in a penalty shootout.

The Matildas in a 2012 file photo
Image: Camw.

((Wikinews)) : The Socceroos are ranked 59th by FIFA. The Matildas are ranked 8th by FIFA in the latest rankings. Should media coverage correlate to team performance and international rankings? Is there an element of tall poppy syndrome in the coverage of the Socceroos? What other factors can be used to explain the relative differences in media attention other than performance?

Steve Redhead: Women's sports performances are seen as less than men's — deep structural sexism (globally replicated).

((WN)) : What's the difference in style of play between the men and women's national teams?

Steve Redhead: If we take soccer teams, with the newish rules on tackling from behind globally soccer has become almost a non-contact sport — this has helped the women's game enormously and the styles of play don't differ very much at all. If you were from outer space watching games, you would not know that a game was being played by men or women at the top level. The big remaining difference is goalkeeping. Men's team goalkeepers are invariably way over six feet at the top level. Goalkeeping in the women's game looks different because of this difference.

((WN)) : Why are the Matildas more successful in international competitions and ranking wise than the Socceroos?

SR: Socceroos have been in decline since Hiddink stopped being coach. Aging team, no great young players coming through to replace the golden generation. No such problem with Matildas — just steady improvement, and good coaching.
Australia's Douglas Utjesenevic going against East German Eberhard Vogel at the 1974 FIFA World Cup, Australia men's first World Cup appearance.
Image: Rainer Mittelstädt.

((WN)) : Soccer is one of most popular spectator sports for women. Why do you think the W-League has been unable to capitalize on the female audience like netball has?

SR: This is a difficult question — I just think it is going to take time, and articles like this one — it has been the same problem all over the world for women's football and increasing the audience is always difficult.

((WN)) : Why do you think men don't watch the Matildas in the same numbers as they watch the Socceroos?

SR: The soccer culture for men's football is long standing, there is a real history for the culture. Not so in the women's game.

((WN)) : Do problems with A-League finances translate into broader problems for the W-League and its ability to attract investors?

SR: Yes, I think so. But there is a deep structural sexism in the culture too.

((WN)) : None of the Socceroos received DAS [Direct Athlete Support] grants from the Australian Sports Commission in the past year while almost every single player on the Matildas received DAS or SLGSfW [Sports Leadership Grants and Scholarships for Women] funding. What accounts for difference in Australian Sports Commission/Australian Institute of Sport funding and what would it take to change that?

SR: Can't really answer that one.
W-League player Emily Van Egmond playing for the Western Sydney Wanderers in a pre-season game last month
Image: Efcso.

((WN)) : What role should the government play in encouraging media organizations, both newspapers and television networks, to cover women's soccer in Australia?

SR: I think it does take federal government intervention — educational programmes in sport long term, enforcement of equality legislation, etc.

((WN)) : Does the media feed into traditional Australian gender stereotypes by not covering elite women's sports?

SR: Yes it does. Media sports education is crucial. We do this here at Charles Sturt University in NSW and I did it at University of Brighton in the UK.

((WN)) : Australia has a long history of a male-driven sporting narrative. How does this narrative play into current representations of men and women in Australian soccer? Does the cultural heritage of male-driven narratives make one national team more inherently authentic than the other?

SR: No, but I think it does make it difficult for women's sport to build the narratives over a period of time.

((WN)) : Do issues with the Matildas not receiving the same level of media recognition as the Socceroos play a role in the development and attention of other Australian national soccer teams like blind football at the Paralympic level, cerebral palsy football at the Paralympic level, Australian teams at the International Gay Games, deaf soccer teams at the Deaflympics, wheelchair soccer at the World Cup of Powerchair Football?

SR: Yes, it is about equality — there is so much discrimination in the coverage of sports teams.


This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.
This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.